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Mayor puts wrong foot forward in moving toward mandatory vaccines for cops, city workers

Instead of negotiating a pathway toward vaccination, Lightfoot — as she does too frequently — threw down the gauntlet and issued an edict with a deadline.

City officials say they have no plans to open an around-the-clock COVID-19 vaccination site in Chicago.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to require city workers, including cops, to be vaccinated by Oct 15.
Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the police union are needlessly at loggerheads now over her announcement earlier this week that all city employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 15.

Lightfoot says that would include police officers, and Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara — as usual — reached into the nut bag to find the words to express his displeasure.

“We’re in America, G-ddamn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f---ing Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the f---ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f—k?” Catanzara told the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

We flat-out believe Chicago cops and other city workers should be vaccinated to protect themselves and the public — who often have no choice but to interact with them.

As we wrote last month, every government and business should require the vaccine. But instead of fully negotiating a pathway toward required vaccinations (and an announcement), Lightfoot again threw down the gauntlet and issued an edict with a deadline.

Now, not only does the FOP have its back up over the mandatory vaccination issue, so do the three other unions representing police sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

The mayor has to find a better way to get this done.

Education and negotiation first

To bolster her decision, Lightfoot cites new vaccine-or-test rules for Cook County and New York City municipal workers. But the issue is fraught when it comes to vaccinating cops. The Big Apple’s largest police union is now threatening to sue over the mandate.

Rank-and-file NYPD members oppose mandatory vaccination even though 20% of its 35,000 members were struck with the virus during the first wave. Since the start of the pandemic, 60 New York police officers have died of COVID-19, including three this month.

About 47% of the NYPD is vaccinated compared with around 30% of Chicago police officers.

You’d think numbers like that would have police running in formation to get the jab. That it hasn’t is proof that it’ll take education and negotiations to bring officers into the fold.

“So if they’re going to make this a fireable offense or a mandate in order to maintain employment, that’s gonna have to be negotiated by them,” Lt. Michael Stiscak, president of Chicago Police Lieutenants Union, told ABC7 Chicago. “It just cannot be enacted by them.”

Don’t ‘be punitive’

The odd thing: City Hall has been in talks with its unions for the past few weeks about the mandatory vaccine issue. Lightfoot could have waited until those talks were concluded and agreements were reached. As it is now, she’s ringing the dinner bell before the menu has been decided.

With the COVID-19 Delta variant gaining a foothold, we can see why Lightfoot wants to move quickly to get police and city workers vaccinated. But her current tactic threatens to slow things down rather than speed them up.

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